Movie review Catching Fire shows trilogy has plenty of fuel to burn
There are few more enviable tasks than making a film based on best-selling young-adult book series. The intended audience is already well-defined and established, so theres really not much the filmmakers need do in order to make a mint.
And, if precedence counts for anything (a certain vampiric/werewolf love story that shall remain nameless), the makers of such films dont generally do very much beyond transposing the books dialogue into a screenplay and casting the heart-throbbiest of young actors to play their leading men and ladies.
In such a climate, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a welcome breath of fresh air. Not to say that the film the second entry in a planned trilogy, based on the Suzanne Collins series of the same name breaks dramatically from its source material. It is as faithful as any fan of the book could hope, and anyone else could reasonably expect.
However, unlike in other adaptations where the special effects, score and, especially, the acting and direction feel more like vague afterthoughts shoehorned onto a story that was perfectly suited to print, these same elements serve to enrich and breathe life into the tale Catching Fire weaves.
The sequel follows the events of the first film, wherein Katniss Everdean (played by the extremely talented Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) came out the victors in the Hunger Games in direct defiance of the nigh-omnipotent Capitol sponsors of the annual bloodbath.
Catching Fire sees the resulting aftermath create a spark of rebellion in the Districts (the rough equivalent of states in this post-apocalyptic world) that the Capitol rules, followed by Katniss and Peetas return to a new, even more dangerous incarnation of the Games at the behest of the sinister President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
The real kudos for the success of Catching Fire go to its ensemble cast, led by Lawrence, but also featuring the talents of Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Liam Hemsworth and Elizabeth Banks. They lend to the story a truly surprising emotional depth so much so that viewers are likely to even forget how silly their characters names are. Bookended by well-rendered action sequences, the dialogue and the cast force viewers to confront the deeper themes encapsulated within the story.
The films biggest weakness is its extended runtime. Probably an unavoidable flaw, being based on a novel with such a large and devoted fan base, but a noticeable one, such that by the time the characters actually enter the arena of the films titular Games, one feels as though hes already watched an entire movie.
All told, Catching Fire improves upon the ground tread by its predecessor, delivering on what it promises and blowing away any low expectations in the process. Hunger Games fans will love it, and even those unfamiliar with or apathetic toward the series should have no trouble stomaching it.